How to Choose an International School (Part 1)
Updated: Aug 14
Feeling overwhelmed by the number of international schools out there? First consider the following two aspects when deciding your priorities and preferences in your next choice of school:
Does the school have an:
international and/or local student population, and
international and/or local teaching staff?
We examine further aspects to consider in Part 2 of this article.
International vs. Local Student Population
There was a time when most international schools were for foreign students only, holding passports from other countries. Expatriate parents contracted out to embassies, consulates or multinational corporations from around the world would register their child at their new country’s international school, which offered a program similar to what they would have back home. The classes would be made up of different nationalities from all over the world, something akin to a mini United Nations. There would be a richness of cultural activities and events, showcasing the backgrounds of the students and their families. These schools still exist but are becoming the minority in the landscape of international education.
These days, many local parents are choosing to send their child to their country’s international establishments, either through scholarship placements or at their own expense, which can become a significant investment. Parental expectations range from eventual acceptance at a university abroad for their child, to giving their child an advantage over other local students in being accepted at their country’s sometimes highly-competitive, national universities. There is also the added comfort of networking with like-minded and similarly-resourced families and their children. These parents have high academic expectations as well, especially when it comes to their child’s learning to speak English fluently. This growing trend to switch from local to international education has resulted in a huge demand for more international schools (and thus international teachers) around the world.
International vs. Local Teaching Staff
Some international schools strive to have their teaching staff represent the diverse and multiethnic world we live in, wanting to expose their students to as many nationalities, accents, cultures, and teaching methodologies as possible. In my opinion, these schools are to be treasured. There are other schools that might stick with hiring one or two nationalities (for example some British, Australian, Canadian or American-curriculum schools), in order to focus on offering a program similar to what students would get in those home countries, and to maintain the culture of a school and its traditions. Sadly, there are also schools that concentrate the hiring practices for their international teaching staff on the marketing of their school, considering only a certain look for their promotional material (think: fair-haired and light-coloured eyes, for example).
In all cases, international schools will endeavour to hire local staff, whether as strictly administrative and operational support such as office workers, security, maintenance, and cleaning staff, or also as educational assistants for the classroom. In some cases, local teachers will be hired to help deliver the national curriculum within the international school’s program, offering courses such as physical education, geography, history, civic studies, citizenship, religion, arts, and language arts, all in the local language. In other schools, local teachers will work alongside international teachers in, for example, the English, Math, Science, and World Language departments, adding a valuable, local perspective to each department.
In Part 2 of this article, we take a look at other considerations when choosing your next school, such as:
Non-Profit vs. For-Profit schools;
What curriculum is offered; and
How much assistance is offered (from the HR department to in-class support for teachers).
The bottom line is that it's vitally important to do your research before considering and applying at a new school. Still not sure where to look for a new job? Check out my recent blog posts:
"Choosing your Next International Destination" - Four things to consider when choosing your next destination;
"Where to find an International Teaching Position" - Three places to look for a teaching job overseas; and
"How to Find an International Teaching Position" - Six steps to finding an international teaching job.
When you are ready to start applying, be sure to first contact Jacqueline at JPMint. Consulting to help you put your best foot forward. Take a look at the many services available to help your candidacy stand out and land you the job you've always wanted. Looking forward to hearing from you!